LAKE CHARLES, La. — With a road losing streak inching toward a program record worst, the Cal Poly football team wanted to make a statement going into Saturday’s game at McNeese State.
Who knew it was a fashion statement?
Wearing their solid gold-colored home pants below their white road jerseys in an all-out effort to change their fortunes, the No. 20 Mustangs got a breakout performance from quarterback Andre Broadous, forced the No. 19 team in the country into five turnovers and withstood a 47-minute lightning delay to hand the Cowboys a 40-14 defeat.
Normally, the white road jerseys with the green stripe down the side are accompanied by white pants with a corresponding green stripe.
That color combination is so last season.
“They’re already screaming in there, ‘We want gold pants,’ ” said Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh, who brought the idea of changing up the uniforms to captains this week, the second in five straight in which they’ll be away from home.
Perhaps a new Mustangs mantra is in order: Change (of clothes) is good.
“Sometimes, change is good,” Walsh said. “Sometimes you just do things because you can. And maybe this makes a difference in a player’s mentality. It had nothing to do with superstition. It had to do with we have to change some stuff up.”
The eight straight road losses, dating back to a one-point overtime loss at Wisconsin in 2008, was tied for the second-longest road losing streak in program history and was only three shy of the all-time record set under former head coach Larry Welsh between 1995 and 1996.
Walsh seemed especially snakebitten, having lost all six road games in his first season as Cal Poly head coach, including four where the Mustangs — who held a 24-7 halftime edge on McNeese State — had the halftime lead.
He got a Gatorade bath from the players for having to endure the lengthy streak.
“It was our first road win in two years,” Broadous said. “It was a big win for us. We’ve been fighting for this all year. We’ve talked about it all week. We finally executed and dominated the game, so I think he deserved it.”
Broadous, a sophomore making his first career start in place of injured senior Tony Smith, kept drives alive with several ingenious runs.
Though Broadous had yet to get extended playing time, coaches have always praised his escapability and talent for making positive gains out of what might appear to be busted plays.
Running behind an injury-riddled offensive line that was down to just one first-team starter early in the third quarter, Broadous made just such a play on a 39-yard touchdown run that gave Cal Poly a 10-7 lead with 10:19 left in the second.
Before he took off running, it looked like he might get caught for a 6-yard loss.
“Aristotle Thompson, our running backs coach, he coached Andre in high school,” Walsh said, “and he said he is the best gameday player that we’ll ever see.
“He was one of the best Friday night high school players that he’s ever been around. And he made some big plays tonight. He made some moves and some maneuvers that I thought were pretty special.
“It gets a little scary sometimes when he does some of the stuff he does, but when the end result was as good as it was tonight, I don’t have any complaints. We’ll watch it on film, but I think he’s earned the right to play again.”
In three quarters of action, Broadous rushed 14 times for a game-high 89 yards and a touchdown and engineered scoring drives of eight and 11 plays in the second quarter.
He was 7-of-10 passing for 77 yards. Broadous had no touchdowns but also no interceptions. He connected with leading receiver Dominique Johnson a team-high four times for 62 yards.
With the Mustangs up comfortably by 37 points in the third quarter, Walsh went to backup Doug Shumway to finish the game.
“As the game went on, things just started getting easier and easier,” said Broadous, who’d been kept out with an ankle injury before leading two drives at the end of the second quarter in last week’s 21-12 loss at Texas State. “The reads started getting easier. The game just started getting slower. Our offense has a whole started picking up on what they were doing and we just started executing.”
The Mustangs’ defense made sure early in the third quarter that a blown lead would not recur this time around, forcing turnovers on each of the first two Cowboys drives that directly led to Cal Poly touchdowns.
First, redshirt freshman linebacker Johnny Millard returned an interception of McNeese State quarterback Jacob Bower 24 yards for a touchdown. Then, sophomore linebacker Kenny Jackson recovered a fumble by Cowboys running back Marcus Wiltz at the McNeese State 27-yard line and two plays later, Mark Rodgers scored on a 22-yard run.
Senior linebacker Marty Mohamed had an interception in his third-straight game, and junior safety Greg Francis had a 34-yard interception return that set up Rodgers’ first touchdown.
McNeese State ended up losing two fumbles, and Bower accounted for three interceptions.
“The quarterback doesn’t look off,” Francis said. “He was looking at one man the whole time. We found that out in film early, that he doesn’t like to look people off.”
It was 38-7 when lightning forced the delay with 12:18 left in the third quarter.
Rodgers finished with 72 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, and fullbacks Jordan Yocum and Jake Romanelli combined for 128 yards on 27 attempts with Yocum scoring a 5-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.
The 310 yards rushing as a team was a Cal Poly high under Walsh and was the most since the Mustangs gained 363 yards in a playoff loss to Weber State in 2008.